Naturopathic medicine is an important part of integrative care provided at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) at Western Regional Medical Center (Western). Naturopathic physicians offer natural therapies designed to help patients manage side effects, improve quality of life and support wellness.
If you choose to incorporate naturopathic medicine into your care plan, your naturopathic physician at Western will work with your care team, including your medical oncologist, care manager, registered dietitian, and mind-body therapist, to provide a fully integrative approach to your care. Naturopathic physicians work with the patient to create personalized, evidence-informed naturopathic suggestions designed to support you through your conventional treatment.
If you choose naturopathic care, you'll meet with your naturopathic physician for an initial assessment that includes a comprehensive review of your medical history, medications and dietary supplements. All supplements are reviewed against all medications for possible interactions and/or other contraindications with your cancer type or other medical conditions, as well as any other safety concerns and appropriateness.
We will work to identify symptoms impacting quality of life that may need to be addressed in the initial visit. We discuss options regarding natural therapy interventions vs. medications and prescribe accordingly. We also help identify needs that may be addressed by our other integrative services, such as acupuncture, massage, chiropractic and oncology rehabilitation.
Throughout your treatment, your naturopathic physician may suggest natural therapies to support you during treatment, including:
- Botanical medicine (herbal medicine): Our naturopathic physicians continuously monitor scientific and medical research to identify evidence-informed botanical medicines appropriate for your treatment. Since botanical medicines have the potential to interact with pharmaceutical drugs, your naturopathic physician will carefully review your current medications and treatment before making any suggestions.
- Dietary supplements: Your naturopathic physician may suggest specific dietary supplements that may be appropriate for your disease and compatible with your treatment.
- Homeopathic medicine: Homeopathy incorporates specifically prepared remedies using small doses of natural substances to address certain health issues. Homeopathy may be suggested for conditions such as nausea and hot flashes.
- Lifestyle changes: Children and adults are now being exposed to greater quantities of potentially toxic chemicals in their environment. Naturopathic physicians may help provide lifestyle suggestions and offer therapies designed to decrease the harmful effects of toxic exposure.
- Health education and lifestyle counseling: One of the principles of naturopathic medicine is, “Doctor as a teacher.” Our naturopathic physicians teach patients about their disease, and counsel them on healthy lifestyle, smoking cessation, the benefits of exercise and stress management.
While naturopathic training focuses on the use of natural medicines, sometimes your naturopathic physician may also prescribe a pharmaceutical medication, if appropriate.
Our naturopathic physicians help guide you in the use of natural therapies, as part of an integrative approach to your care. They also monitor your supplements during every visit, to help you avoid potential drug-herb and drug-nutrient interactions.
Proper use of supplements
According to Dr. Shauna Birdsall, Director of Naturopathic Medicine, Vice Chief of Staff and Medical Director of Integrative Oncology, many patients are already taking supplements or using other natural therapies when they arrive at Western. Throughout your care and even after you go home, the naturopathic medicine team is available to answer questions you may have and help educate you about the proper use of supplements.
"Our job is to review patient’s supplements and see which are actually of benefit to the patient based on scientific research, the patient’s type of cancer, and current conventional treatment," Dr. Birdsall says. "We also answer questions about supplements or other natural therapies that the patients may have heard about through family, friends or research on the Internet."